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Group of immigrants welcomed into U.S. citizenship at Soldiers & Sailors

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 12:24 a.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Dong Mei Lin, 31 of Oil City (originally from China) and Denise Josephs, 38 of Plum (originally from Jamaica) recite the oath of allegiance at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum Naturalization Ceremony Friday, May 24, 2013.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Mohammed Abdellah, 30 of Bellevue wipes tears from his eyes after reciting the oath of allegiance at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum Naturalization Ceremony Friday, May 24, 2013. Abdellah is originally from Egypt.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Aquinas Academy sixth grade students Lindsay Szabo, 11 and Elizabeth Blume, 12 applaud as Juan Mata, 48 of Allison Park receives a certification of naturalization at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum Naturalization Ceremony Friday, May 24, 2013. Mata is an Admissions Director at Aquinas Academy in Gibsonia.

Guinea native Ibrahima Bah came to the United States in 1998 in pursuit of education, he said.

First on the list for the French speaker: Learn English, so he took English courses at Point Park University.

Ten years later, he had earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems from Robert Morris University and a master's degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.

As of Friday, Bah had another document to show for his efforts: a certificate of naturalization.

“The U.S. is a great country, one of the best democracies that we have in the world,” said Bah, 35, of West View.

On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Eddy administered the Oath of Allegiance to Bah and 67 other immigrants who became U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland. The new citizens hail from 34 countries, including Australia, China, Ghana, Mexico and Pakistan.

Their paths to citizenship were diverse.

After emigrating from New Zealand to the United States 22 years ago, Aleppo residents Fraser and Pam Fleming, both 49, became U.S. citizens because Fraser Fleming, a Duquesne University chemistry professor, is required to be a citizen for his new job at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

“But we've been thinking about it for a while. All of our kids are Americans,” Pam Fleming said.

Spain native Juan Mata, who gave a speech at the ceremony, moved back to the United States permanently in 2000 after being impressed by Pittsburgh's people and traditions, he said.

The Allison Park resident, 48, is director of admissions and student activity at Hampton-based Aquinas Academy, about 380 of whose students and faculty cheered on Mata.

Soldiers & Sailors President John McCabe, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and other dignitaries urged the new citizens to take advantage of America's freedoms and opportunities, but stressed that those rights and privileges come with the responsibility to uphold the country's principles.

“Our country was founded on the ideal that you're able to develop God-given talents, that you have inalienable rights,” Rothfus said.

The sentiments were expressed as national calls for federal immigration reform build.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee approved a measure that would create new paths for people to immigrate legally to the United States to work at all skill levels while tightening border security and offering an opportunity for citizenship to the 11 million people in the country illegally.

House Republicans, however, will produce their own legislation, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

“There has to be an element of fairness. … Obviously, the immigration system we have now is broken,” said Rothfus, who said improving border security and implementing a legal-employment verification system were two priorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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